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How Far Would You Go to Give Your Kid that Extra Advantage?
By Noah Evslin, Director of Medical Research
If you watch our show closely, you'll realize it's not the medical treatments that make Private Practice different than other shows on television; rather, it's the ethical debates surrounding the myriad decisions our doctors need to make every week.
In the sixth episode of the season, "If I Hadn't Forgotten," Cooper is informed that his patient OLLIE (8) suffers from ADHD. He's given this information by Ollie's parents VICK and ROSIE before any diagnostic tests are completed. Cooper becomes even more suspicious when Rosie insists that Cooper treat Ollie as aggressively as possible. In the case of ADHD, aggressive treatment means prescribing a pharmaceutical grade amphetamine like Ritalin or Adderall. So, our first ethical debate becomes:
"Do you prescribe drugs to a child just because a parent thinks they need it?"
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a relatively common disorder that affects around 10% of children in the United States. Kids with ADHD have trouble focusing, act without thinking and are hyperactive.
The problem with diagnosing ADHD is that all kids behave this way at one time or another. It's called being a child. In addition, there's a growing debate in the medical community around the prescription of extremely strong and potentially addictive ADHD drugs to children who might or might not need them. Because of this, doctors and mental health practitioners have added diagnostic safeguards to ensure that a child really has this disorder before any drugs can be prescribed.
Executing the diagnostic safeguards was exactly what Cooper and Sheldon were doing when the parents whisked their child away from the practice with the intent to score the drugs from another doctor. We also find out that these parents were giving Ollie his older brother's ADHD drugs while they were waiting for him to get a prescription of his own, which brings us to the second part of our ethical debate:
Why are these parents so eager to medicate their child?
As the story unfolds, we find out that children who are diagnosed with ADHD get a longer time to take important assessment tests required by college. In addition, the drugs do increase focus, whether or not a child actually needs then, giving these children a competitive advantage over children who don't get prescribed the same medication.
So it's now a sad reality that as the requirements to get into a good college become more and more stringent, parents are finding themselves in a situation where they're willing to do whatever it takes to give their child an added advantage – even if that means unnecessarily drugging them.
When Cooper finds out that these parents are giving their child pharmaceutical grade amphetamines to boost his performance in school, he confronts them at their house and threatens to report them to Child Protective Services if this abhorrent practice continues.
Do you think Cooper made the right decision?